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Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

 

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Every time…

…I drive down a street canopied by interlaced trees, I think of the elms standing sentry over the town of my childhood.

Every time…

…I hear Trumpet Voluntary by Henry Purcell, I’m transported back to my wedding day.

Every time…

…I stroke soft velvet, I remember the turquoise velvet dress my mother wore—over fifty years ago.

Every time…

…I eat raspberries, my grandmother comes to mind. She made the best jam with fresh berries from her own bushes in the backyard.

Every time…

…I smell a wood fire, visions of family-reunion picnics float in my memory.

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Our senses are powerful catalysts for memories and emotional response.  But out of the five, researchers say the most powerful is the sense of smell.

So when the ancients read this scripture verse, what images came to their minds?

“All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad” (Psalm 45:8).

myrrh

 

First, a bit of background might be helpful:

Psalm 45 was composed for a royal wedding. Verse eight, about the groom’s robes, might refer to a long-held custom in the Middle East of perfuming one’s clothing, especially for special occasions.

But the imagery of the psalm also speaks prophetically of another “wedding”–between Christ and his bride, the church.

Many of the descriptors for the Groom fit Jesus perfectly:

 “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever…In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds” (vs. 2-4).

But if the psalm is a word-picture for the relationship of Christ to his church, what is the significance of verse 8? Why the description of his robes, fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia?

Perhaps the pleasing, aromatic scents represent all the pleasing virtues Jesus embodied: his love, wisdom, and grace.

Perhaps they are also an allusion to his burial.  In ancient times, spices were also used in the embalming process.

After the crucifixion, you’ll remember that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. He was accompanied by Nicodemus, who brought seventy-five pounds of myrrh and aloes to wrap within the linen burial strips (John 19:38-40).

Why would the same spices be used at Jesus’ death and at the great Wedding Supper yet to come?

 

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Bible teacher, Ray Stedman, explains: The resplendent wedding described in Psalm 45 is made possible by a death—the death of the Groom himself.  Only out of his death could come this glorious celebration. And now, the fragrance of his beauty is everywhere!

Have you ever hugged someone and then carried away with you the scent of that person’s cologne?

The aroma of Christ should cling to us just like that.

“Everywhere we go people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16, The Message).

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Oh, Lord Jesus, I delight in the sweet fragrance of all your glorious attributes.  May my words and actions diffuse your exquisite fragrance of life, love and grace to everyone around me.

 

(Photo and art credits: http://www.saveourelms.com; http://www.footage.shuttershock.com; http://www.dwellingintheowrd.wordpress.com; http://www.divinerevelations.info.)

 

 

 

 

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Back in the 1970s I saw Helen Hayes in a made-for-TV movie.  Some of you may recognize her.  She was known as the “First Lady of the American Theater,” beginning her career on Broadway in 1905, when she was only five years old.  In the 1930s, Helen expanded her stardom to films, and finally to television.

The reason she comes to mind now and then is the impression she made upon me, as an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen.  I remember thinking, “When I get old, I want to be like that!”

Poof.  Four decades have passed, and I am indeed getting old!  I don’t feel like it, but that doesn’t stop the incessant turning of the calendar pages.

So I was delighted to come across these verses from Psalm 92 that cast aging in a positive light:

“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God.  They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him” (vs. 12-15).

Palm trees do indeed flourish, living up to 100 years.  Withstanding heat, drought, and high winds, these trees stand tall and strong; their leaves fresh and green all year long.

 

What a perfect picture of an energetic, sparkly eyed senior citizen! 

How do we achieve such age-defying qualities? 

First, notice that the righteous will flourish.  When our faith is grounded in God, when we follow his principles for a prosperous life, we flourish.

Like the palm tree that grows straight up toward heaven, the righteous reach for the God of heaven.  That’s how they’re able to stand strong through the winds of change and difficult circumstances.

The psalmist then continues:  “The righteous will…grow like a cedar of Lebanon.”

Majestic cedar trees grow to 120 feet in height and up to 30 feet in circumference.  They provide the perfect picture of a firm, stable person.  Just as the cedar’s roots go deep into the soil, so the righteous person is rooted and grounded in God’s love (Ephesians 3:17).  From those roots comes the nourishment needed to remain strong and spiritually healthy.

Second, notice where these trees are planted:  in the house of the Lord.  They flourish in the courts of our God.

Charles Spurgeon, that eloquent preacher and writer of the 1800s, had this to say about those who dwell in habitual fellowship with God:  “They shall become men [and women] of full growth, rich in grace, happy in experience, mighty in influence, honored and honorable.”  Now that sounds like a very satisfying way to live—so much better than the opposite!

Think of a complaining oldster whose mouth turns down from constant disgruntlement.  His bottom lip protrudes from perpetual pouting, and his brow is permanently lowered into a frown because anger often rules his emotions.  All this negativity has stunted the growth of his maturity.  He’s unhappy much of the time, and is not held in high regard by others.  Do you suppose he ever considers that his way of life is terribly unsatisfying?   

However!  When our lives are centered upon worship of God, as we express gratitude for his blessings, praise for his attributes, contentment for where he’s placed us, and joy in the midst of trials, we become those admirable men and women Dr. Spurgeon described above:  mature, gracious, and happy.

Dr. Spurgeon also added “mighty in influence and honored.  God rewards the righteous aged with “fruit.”  In other words, we may still bring glory to God by our words and actions—well into old age.

We can be:

  • Energetic—with the power of the Holy Spirit
  • sparkly-eyed—with the indwelling of God’s peace
  • grace-filled—with continual demonstrations of God’s love to others
  • joyful—with hearts focused on God’s blessings

These kinds of saints provide a powerful example of God’s faithfulness—through pleasant times and challenges, through plenty and want, year after year.

May we continue to grow deep and stand tall—all the days of our lives.

(photo credits:  www.pachd.com, www.captainkimo.com, www.forestertreeservice.com, www.centrifueleadership.com, www.seniors.ovetoknow.com)

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On Monday we began a list of the riches we enjoy because of God’s G.R.A.C.E.–God’s Riches at Christ’s Expense.

Or, as Matthew Henry defined God’s grace:  the free, undeserved goodness and favor of God to mankind.

And because our God loves us so very much, his grace is multi-faceted.  Thus far I’ve discovered forty-seven aspects of God’s grace.  On Monday I shared twenty-three; here are the remaining twenty-four.

24.  An unshakable KINGDOM, as a promised inheritance (James 2:5).

25.  Everlasting LOVING-KINDNESS that draws us to him (Jeremiah 31:3).

26.  Rich MERCY that spares us from what we really deserve (Ephesians 2:4-5).

27.  Wonderful NEWNESS of Life with Christ, who is our constant companion (Romans 6:4).

28.  Deep PEACE, because God’s children have nothing to fear (John 14:27).

29.  A positive PERSPECTIVE, to see good in the bleakest of circumstances (Philippians 1:12-18).

30.  A privileged POSITION as members of a royal priesthood, because through Christ we belong to God (1 Peter 2:9).

31.  God’s joyful PRESENCE, which makes our hearts glad (Psalm 21:6).

32.  Flourishing PROSPERITY of soul, because our confidence is in God, for his provision and protection (Psalm 128:1-2).

33.  Personalized PURPOSE, to fulfill a God-ordained plan (Jeremiah 29:11).

34.  Full QUALITY of Life, as a child of the King (John 10:10).

35.  An intimate RELATIONSHIP with Almighty God, like two good friends having dinner together (Revelation 3:20).

36.  Quiet REST, as we allow him to handle our worries and fears, heal our hurts, and relieve our guilt (Matthew 11:28-30).

37.  Generous REWARD for whatever good we do (Ephesians 6:8).

38.  Eternal SALVATION incredibly given to us as a free gift (Romans 6:23).

39.  Life-changing SATISFACTION, because God’s love and power are at work in us (Psalm 63:2-5).

40.  Firm SECURITY that God will never fail us (Lamentations 3:22).

41.  The all-sufficient STRENGTH of God to equip us for life’s challenges (2 Corinthians 12:9).

42.  An unending SUPPLY of everything we will ever need (Philippians 4:19).

43.  God’s abiding THOUGHTFULNESS of each of us, 24-7 (Psalm 139:17-18).

44.  The absolute TRUTH of his Word, with its reliable guidance and uplifting encouragement (Psalm 119:137-138).

45.  Lavish UNDERSTANDING because he knows our weaknesses (Ephesians 1:7-8, Romans 8:26).

46. Assured VICTORY over Satan, because of Christ’s death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:57).

47.  Divine WISDOM to determine right actions from wrong (James 1:5).

No doubt this is just a partial list.  In fact, if you discover additional facets of God’s grace, I would love to hear from you.  We can make this discovery process a team effort!

But even as the list stands now, these varied and glorious gifts of God’s grace prove his sufficiency.  He is all we need (Isaiah 58:11).

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Thank you, Father, for showering us with your grace–grace that blesses us far beyond comprehension.  You are indeed most worthy of our praise, because the greatness of your grace no one can fathom.

Art and photo credits:  www.lifehopeandtruth.com ; www.BreathOfLifeOnline.net ; www.dilshara.redbubble.com ; www.lift-up-jesus.blogspot.com ; www.creativeoutburst.com

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Let’s take a walk down to the river, you and I. It won’t take long—I know how busy you are…

…You’ll come? Splendid!

It’s much too lovely a day to stay indoors anyway. See how the sunshine fairly dances across the mounds of bright white clouds? And look how the yellow asters and violets seem to vie for attention in the grass.

Listen! Before we even glimpse the river through the trees, we can hear the water gurgling over the rocks.

Ah-h-h. Feel that cool air? These grand, shady oaks grow especially lush by the river.

English: River under the Trees The River Erme ...

River under the Trees (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we are! I told you it wouldn’t take long. Let’s sit on these rocks for a moment.

Isn’t it peaceful? The only sounds are the burbling eddies and the distant chirping of a few birds. Must be nap time for the woodland creatures.

The water currents are moving at a slow, steady pace today. Look how the sun glints off the gentle ripples, like tiny stars on liquid sky.

What is it about water that we find so appealing? Why does a vista of calm waters also calm our spirits?

Reflection of trees in river

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Such questions bring to mind a scripture about God being like a river.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells” (Psalm 46:4).

Those of us who love God are the inhabitants of the city, made glad by the streams of the God River.

But how is God like a river?

One, he is our resting place, much as this river offers a quiet retreat. Just reflecting on a few of his names can calm our hearts. He is our Shepherd—caring and protective, he is our Rock—reliable and strong, he is our Father—loving and kind.

Just to name a few.

English: Sheep, Eden Brows. Woods descend to t...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two, God’s grace (all of his riches) comes to us like the water of this river, in an unending flow. And much as we delight in this scenic view of drifting water and majestic trees, God’s exquisite grace cheers our hearts again and again.

But to enjoy the river fully, we have to sit on its banks. We have to look and listen with focused attention.  Otherwise we’ll miss much of its beauty.

The same is true of God’s grace.

So sit quietly. Turn over in your mind the glorious treasures of his grace, and inspect them:

• Inexhaustible love

• Unmerited favor

• Total forgiveness

• Eternal bliss in heaven

Sunbeams

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

• Lavish provision

• Unfailing empowerment

• Delightful blessings

• Dazzling transformation

And again, this list is just a sampling.

Last, consider these grand oak trees. They, too, offer appropriate imagery of another Bible passage about rivers.

English: River Add through the trees

“Blessed is the man who trusts me, God,
the woman who sticks with God.
They’re like trees replanted in Eden,
putting down roots near the rivers—
Never a worry through the hottest of summers,
never dropping a leaf,
Serene and calm through droughts,
bearing fresh fruit every season”
(Jeremiah 17:7-8, MSG).

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Oh, Lord, thank you for your peace and grace that flow unending like a great river. I reaffirm my trust in you. My heart’s desire is to be like one of these trees– spiritually strong, serene, and calm—no matter what happens. And I want to bear fruit, to grow qualities that reflect you. As I seek to send my roots deep into the soil of your Word, guide my thoughts and actions.  Because most of all, I want to honor you.

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Her name is Elena (EL-e-na) Grace, born February 28, 2013.  As you can see, she sports a fuzzy round head and pudgy cheeks.  What you can’t see are her feet–long and slender like her father’s.

Now two months old, she studies her surroundings and tracks right and left the toys we jiggle for her. Elena already likes books, too. Wide, blue eyes take in as much as possible before the page turns. As her grandmother, I’m delighted to play and read, just to see her reactions.

Elena’s father, our son, is an artist. A number of his paintings hang in their home. Hold Elena in front of one and she scrutinizes it carefully.

“Wow!” her eyes seem to say. “Have you ever seen such creativity? Such interesting spatial composition? What intriguing juxtaposition!  Such beauty.” (Yes, I’m sure these would be her comments if Elena could talk. Grandmothers know these things.)

Early in April she began to smile. Each time her little face lit up, my spirit lifted.
And then came the first “coo,” followed by many more. No doubt Elena thinks she’s joining in the conversation. We listen closely to catch every “word.”

Is this how it is for our Heavenly Father?

I wonder…

Does his heart fill with delight when we revel in His creation, as Elena delights in her daddy’s paintings? Does he experience joy when we take pleasure in his blessings, much as we take pleasure in Elena’s smiles? Surely so.

Psalm 69 gives us a hint: “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord” (Psalm 69:30-31a). One of God’s names is Creator. He is also God of grace. What a privilege–to make the King of the universe smile, simply by expressing praise and thanksgiving for what he has made, and what he has done.

I wonder…

Does he listen closely to every word (as we listen for Elena’s coos)–even to our thoughts that defy words?

Oh, yes.

“He delights in genuine prayers” (Proverbs 15:8b, MSG). 

“If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans” (Romans 8:26, MSG).

God listens and responds, even to inarticulate prayers.

Why? His love for us is wide and long and high and deep (Ephesians 3:18), in spite of our shortcomings and disobedience. Incredible, isn’t it?

Thank you, Father, for your loving kindness, your forgiveness and empowering presence. Thank you for treasuring us even more than we treasure our families. And thank you for little Elena, who brings new attention to familiar, old truths.

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Crucifixion IV

Crucifixion IV (Photo credit: Remara Photography)

Seems like a cruel oxymoron, doesn’t it—to put the words glory and cross together. Glory carries positive connotations of splendor, radiance, and goodness. The cross is a symbol of horrific pain and suffering.

But the cross is also “an exhibition of the nature of God” (Oswald Chambers). You see, God’s glory is the fullness of who God is, his nature, and includes all his attributes and characters traits. Many of those attributes were at work when God provided the way of salvation for us. The glory of the cross includes:

1. Love

God demonstrated his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Such love is incomprehensible. How could he possibly desire to be in relationship with us? How could he delight in us, frail and self-centered as we are? It makes no sense.

Yet, he sent his Son, Jesus, to take the punishment we deserved and to offer us eternal life. When we invite Jesus into our lives, God takes us from the gutter of depravity and elevates us to the status of beloved children. We are adopted into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5). Incredible!

2. Grace

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

What is grace? All the facets of God’s love—his forgiveness, benevolence, presence, peace, provision, and more—made available to us, who don’t deserve it. Grace prompted God to provide a way for us to experience his love—through the sacrifice of his only Son.

Did you notice? God is the one who provided the way to him; we do not have to figure it out for ourselves, and then hope for the best. By God’s grace, he has made salvation (rescue from death) a sure thing. We can know our place in heaven is secure!

God’s grace, put on display at Calvary, sets Christianity apart from any other belief system in the world.

3. Power

I pray that…you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe…, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead” (Ephesians 1:18-21).

No one can raise someone from the dead except God. When Jesus was resurrected, he demonstrated his power over death, and proved the validity of eternal life, not only for himself, but for all those who believe in him.

But Jesus’ resurrection was not the end of his mission. Read the next couple of verses (22-23) to discover that, after Jesus rose from the dead and ascended back to heaven, God seated His Son at his right hand (the seat of honor). Now Jesus’ power and authority is above all other rule and authority in the universe.

And someday, Jesus will share that power with us. Those of us who have accepted Jesus into our lives will reign with him in heaven (2 Timothy 2:12). My heart is filled with wonder and awe at such a privilege.

4. Faithfulness

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord is faithful” (1 Corinthians 1:7).

Faithful to forgive. Faithful to see us through the journey of this life. Faithful to win the battle over evil in the end. Faithful to keep his promise of eternal life, because of the sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

Our faithful God made salvation so simple for us, but it cost him so much.

5. Justice

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…He did this to demonstrate his justice” (Romans 3:23-26).

We all deserve punishment, and our guilty consciences confirm that truth. But God made it possible for us to be forgiven and ushered into relationship with him. He declared us “not guilty” because Jesus paid the penalty..

I love the way Eugene Peterson explains it in his paraphrase, The Message: “Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ” (Romans 3:23-24).

A pure, precious gift; paid for at Calvary. The glory of the cross.

For you. For me.

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